/ Travel & Leisure

Misleading holidays aren’t what they’re packed up to be

An old bed outside a building

I’ve been to a fair few town halls in my time as a reporter, but not so many palaces. So if I booked a holiday promising me a party in a palace, I’d be annoyed if I ended up in a municipal building.

This is exactly what happened to some travellers who complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the description of an arts tour to Vienna.

The brochure and email descriptions of the tour, run by Travel for the Arts, promised entry to the ‘dazzling Vienna Summer Palace Ball’, with seating in a private ‘loge’ in the ballroom.

In fact, the event took place in a building known as the Rathaus, a municipal building home to Vienna city council and mayor. The loge was not private to people on the tour, but had to be shared with another group.

So last week the ASA upheld two complaints about the tour on the basis that the event was not in a palace, and the seats were not private.

I’d like to think that the days of travellers being misled by inaccurate descriptions in brochures are over. I would hope that companies have learned from the bad publicity caused by being overly optimistic about how long it takes to walk to the beach, or neglecting to mention that a hotel is next to a building site.

But it seems that consumers are still being misled by some familiar sounding inaccuracies in holiday descriptions.

A long way from reality

For instance, in December the ASA upheld a complaint against EasyJet Holidays’ description of the Marinem Diana hotel in Turkey, on five grounds:

  • The EasyJet Holidays website had stated the hotel was 14km from the heart of the Kemer resort, when in fact it was 21km away.
  • The website claimed that the hotel had tennis, billiards, jacuzzi and fitness facilities, when it didn’t have any of them.
  • The room furnishings did not match the description and photos on the site.
  • The site inaccurately claimed rooms had a minibar, because the minibars stocked only bottled water, not alcoholic drinks.
  • And finally, the website showed a photo of a restaurant that had not been available during the holiday.

Altogether, that’s one very misleading description for a holidaymaker who was surely entitled to feel they didn’t get what they paid for.

Personally I’ve been lucky with my holidays. Although I did have one budget trip to a Greek island that promised a room near the coast, but didn’t mention that it was at the end of the runway of a coastal airport.

Have you ever felt duped by the description of your holiday failing to live up to reality? Or do you think travel companies are generally accurate and honest these days?

lou says:
28 March 2015

i booked a holiday with thomas cook they have took payment out sent confirmation saying all booked then today got fone call saying wrong price on internet they want us to cancel or pay the extra surely its there mistake not ours

Have you checked with ABTA, Lou?

Thomas Cook might be relying on some clause in their terms and conditions that allow them to cancel the holiday under certain circumstances [including a pricing error on their part]. They can’t put you back in the position you would have been in before you booked the holiday because by now it might be impossible to replace that holiday with another one on a like-for-like basis taking accont of cost, location, equivalent quality and dates. If you can, I think you should go into a branch and try to speak to someone – they might be able to tweak the terms a bit more in your favour; BUT if you booked on-line through Thomas Cook dot com the shop might not to be able to help you as the two sides of Thoms Cook operate in isolation from each other and the on-line operation is notoriously inflexible and disobliging.

Hi Lou, I’m sorry to hear about the problems you’ve had with them. I’m pleased to let you know that we have lots of information here on what you can do:


As John mentioned, it’d be good to check with ABTA for additional advice, too

I took a walking holiday in Barbados with Ramblers Holidays. Unfortunately the Walk leader had no experience of Barbados . We walked in 32C sun along the coast and this involved a section of dodgy rocks. This was supposed to be a leisurely holiday over easy terrain. The area we were walking is a surfers paradise with lots of big waves.
A large wave went over me unexpectedly as I crossed the rocks and I fell and broke my arm. Ramblers Holidays have denied liability for my accident, blaming a freak wave! Really silly of a leading company to suggest this in my opinion.
Their Brochure describes the Walks as being along distinct coastal paths. Clearly misleading when the route is on the foreshore with some nasty sharp coral rocks.
So far, Ramblers Holidays are burying their heads in the sand literally. Customer care appears to me to be non existent when it should be paramount.